What is Catholic Mass?
The question, "What is Catholic Mass"? has been asked by many people. Learning about mass in the Catholic Church helps all people understand more about one the world's largest and most influential religions.
A. Mass: the Name and Definition
The Mass is the complex of prayers and ceremonies that make up the service of the Eucharist in the Latin rites. As in the case of all liturgical terms the name is less old than the thing. From the time of the first preaching of the Christian Faith in the West, as everywhere, the Holy Eucharist was celebrated as Christ had instituted it at the Last Supper, according to His command, in memory of Him. But it was not till long afterwards that the late Latin name Missa, used at first in a vaguer sense, became the technical and almost exclusive name for this service.
In the first period, while Greek was still the Christian language at Rome, we find the usual Greek names used there, as in the East. The commonest was Eucharistia, used both for the consecrated bread and wine and for the whole service. Clement of Rome (d. about 101) uses the verbal form still in its general sense of "giving thanks", but also in connection with the Liturgy (I Clem., Ad Cor., xxxviii, 4: kata panta eucharistein auto).
The other chief witness for the earliest Roman Liturgy, Justin Martyr (d. c. 167), speaks of eucharist in both senses repeatedly (Apol., I, lxv, 3, 5; lxvi, 1; lxvii, 5). After him the word is always used, and passes into Latin (eucharistia) as soon as there is a Latin Christian Literature [Tertullian (d. c. 220), "De pr scr.", xxxvi, in P.L., II, 50; St. Cyprian (d. 258), Ep., liv, etc.]. It remains the normal name for the sacrament throughout Catholic theology, but is gradually superseded by Missa for the whole rite. Clement calls the service Leitourgia (I Cor., xl, 2, 5; xli, 1) and prosphora (Ibid., 2, 4), with, however, a shade of different meaning ("rite", "oblation").
These and the other usual Greek names (klasis artou in the Catacombs; koinonia, synaxis, syneleusis in Justin, "I Apol.", lxvii, 3), with their not yet strictly technical connotation, are used during the first two centuries in the West as in the East. With the use of the Latin language in the third century came first translations of the Greek terms.
First use of "mass" in the Catholic Church
The first certain use of "mass" is by St. Ambrose (d. 397). He writes to his sister Marcellina describing the troubles of the Arians in the years 385 and 386, when the soldiers were sent to break up the service in his church:
"The next day (it was a Sunday) after the lessons and the tract, having dismissed the catechumens, I explained the creed [symbolum tradebam] to some of the competents [people about to be baptized] in the baptistry of the basilica. There I was told suddenly that they had sent soldiers to the Portiana basilica. . . . But I remained at my place and began to say Mass [missam facere coepi]. While I offer [dum ofero], I hear that a certain Castulus has been seized by the people" (Ep., I, xx, 4-5).
It will be noticed that missa here means the Eucharistic Service proper, the Liturgy of the Faithful only, and does not include that of the Catechumens. Ambrose uses the word as one in common use and well known. There is another, still earlier, but very doubtfully authentic instance of the word in a letter of Pope Pius I (from c. 142 to c. 157):
"Euprepia has handed over possession of her house to the poor, where . . . we make Masses with our poor" (cum pauperibus nostris . . . missas agimus" — Pii I, Ep. I, in Galland, "Bibl. vet. patrum", Venice, 1765, I, 672). The authenticity of the letter, however, is very doubtful. If Missa really occurred in the second century in the sense it now has, it would be surprising that it never occurs in the third. We may consider St. Ambrose as the earliest certain authority for it.
From the fourth century the term becomes more and more common. For a time it occurs nearly always in the sense of dismissal. St. Augustine (d. 430) says: "After the sermon the dismissal of the catechumens takes place" (post sermonem fit missa catechumenorum — Serm., xlix, 8, in P.L., XXXVIII, 324). The Synod of Lerida in Spain (524) declares that people guilty of incest may be admitted to church "usque ad missam catechumenorum", that is, till the catechumens are dismissed (Can., iv, Hefele-Leclercq, "Hist. des Conciles", II, 1064).
The same expression occurs in the Synod of Valencia at about the same time (Can., i, ibid., 1067), in Hincmar of Reims (d. 882) ("Opusc. LV capitul.", xxiv, in P.L., CXXVI, 380), etc. Etheria (fourth century) calls the whole service, or the Liturgy of the Faithful, missa constantly ("Peregr. Silviæ", e.g., xxiv, 11, Benedicit fideles et fit missa, etc.). So also Innocent I (401-17) in Ep., xvii, 5, P.L., XX, 535, Leo I (440-61), in Ep., ix, 2, P.L., LIV, 627. Although from the beginning the word Missa usually means the Eucharistic Service or some part of it, we find it used occasionally for other ecclesiastical offices too. In St. Benedict's (d. 543) Rule fiant missae is used for the dismissal at the end of the canonical hours (chap., xvii, passim).
In the Leonine Sacramentary (sixth cent.), the word in its present sense is supposed throughout. The title, "Item alia", at the head of each Mass means "Item alia missa". The Gelasian book (sixth or seventh cent. Cf. ibid.) supplies the word: "Item alia missa", "Missa Chrismatis", "Orationes ad missa [sic] in natale Sanctorum", and so on throughout. From that time it becomes the regular, practically exclusive, name for the Holy Liturgy in the Roman and Gallican Rites.
The meaning of "mass" in the Catholic Church
The origin and first meaning of the word, once much discussed, is not really doubtful. We may dismiss at once such fanciful explanations as that missa is the Hebrew missah ("oblation" — so Reuchlin and Luther), or the Greek myesis ("initiation"), or the German Mess ("assembly", "market"). Nor is it the participle feminine of mittere, with a noun understood ("oblatio missa ad Deum", "congregatio missa", i.e., dimissa — so Diez, "Etymol. Wörterbuch der roman. Sprachen", 212, and others). It is a substantive of a late form for missio.
There are many parallels in medieval Latin, collecta, ingressa, confessa, accessa, ascensa — all for forms in -io. It does not mean an offering (mittere, in the sense of handing over to God), but the dismissal of the people, as in the versicle: "Ite missa est" (Go, the dismissal is made). It may seem strange that this unessential detail should have given its name to the whole service. But there are many similar cases in liturgical language. Communion, confession, breviary are none of them names that express the essential character of what they denote. In the case of the word missa we can trace the development of its meaning step by step.
We have seen it used by St. Augustine, synods of the sixth century, and Hincmar of Reims for "dismissal". Missa Catechumenorum means the dismissal of the catechumens. It appears that missa fit or missa est was the regular formula for sending people away at the end of a trial or legal process. Avitus of Vienne (d. 523) says: "In churches and palaces or law-courts the dismissal is proclaimed to be made [missa pronuntiatur], when the people are dismissed from their attendance" (Ep. i).
So also St. Isidore of Seville: "At the time of the sacrifice the dismissal is [missa tempore sacrificii est] when the catechumens are sent out, as the deacon cries: If any one of the catechumens remain, let him go out: and thence it is the dismissal [et inde missa]" ("Etymol.", VI, xix, in P.L., LXXXII, 252). As there was a dismissal of the catechumens at the end of the first part of the service, so was there a dismissal of the faithful (the baptized) after the Communion.
There were, then, a missa catechumenorum and a missa fidelium, both, at first, in the sense of dismissals only. So Florus Diaconus (d. 860):
"Missa is understood as nothing but dimissio, that is, absolutio, which the deacon pronounces when the people are dismissed from the solemn service. The deacon cried out and the catechumens were sent [mittebantur], that is, were dismissed outside [id est, dimittebantur foras]. So the missa caechumenorum was made before the action of the Sacrament (i. e., before the Canon Actionis), the missa fidelium is made "
— note the difference of tense; in Florus's time the dismissal of the catechumens had ceased to be practised —" after the consecration and communion" [post confectionem et participationem] (P.L., CXIX 72).
How the word gradually changed its meaning from dismissal to the whole service, up to and including the dismissal, is not difficult to understand. In the texts quoted we see already the foundation of such a change.
To stay till the missa catechumenorum is easily modified into: to stay for, or during, the missa catechumenorum. So we find these two missae used for the two halves of the Liturgy. Ivo of Chartres (d. 1116) has forgotten the original meaning, and writes: "Those who heard the missa catechumenorum evaded the missa sacramentorum" (Ep. ccxix, in P.L., CLXII, 224).
The two parts are then called by these two names; as the discipline of the catechumenate is gradually forgotten, and there remains only one connected service, it is called by the long familiar name missa, without further qualification.
We find, however, through the Middle Ages the plural miss, missarum solemnia, as well as missae sacramentum and such modified expressions also. Occasionally the word is transferred to the feast-day. The feast of St. Martin, for instance, is called Missa S. Martini. It is from this use that the German Mess, Messtag, and so on are derived. The day and place of a local feast was the occasion of a market.
It should be noted that the name Mass (missa) applies to the Eucharistic service in the Latin rites only. Neither in Latin nor in Greek has it ever been applied to any Eastern rite. For them the corresponding word is Liturgy (liturgia). It is a mistake that leads to confusion, and a scientific inexactitude, to speak of any Eastern Liturgy as a Mass.
B. The Origin of the Mass in the Catholic Church
The Western Mass, like all Liturgies, begins, of course, with the Last Supper. What Christ then did, repeated as he commanded in memory of Him, is the nucleus of the Mass. As soon as the Faith was brought to the West the Holy Eucharist was celebrated here, as in the East. At first the language used was Greek. Out of that earliest Liturgy, the language being changed to Latin, developed the two great parent rites of the West, the Roman and the Gallican.
Of these two the Gallican Mass may be traced without difficulty. It is so plainly Antiochene in its structure, in the very text of many of ifs prayers, that we are safe in accounting for it as a translated form of the Liturgy of Jerusalem-Antioch, brought to the West at about the time when the more or less fluid universal Liturgy of the first three centuries gave place to different fixed rites.
Mass in the writings of the early church fathers
The origin of the Roman Mass, on the other hand, is a most difficult question, We have here two fixed and certain data: the Liturgy in Greek described by St. Justin Martyr (d. c. 165), which is that of the Church of Rome in the second century, and, at the other end of the development, the Liturgy of the first Roman Sacramentaries in Latin, in about the sixth century. The two are very different. Justin's account represents a rite of what we should now call an Eastern type, corresponding with remarkable exactness to that of the Apostolic Constitutions.
The Leonine and Gelasian Sacramentaries show us what is practically our present Roman Mass. How did the service change from the one to the other? It is one of the chief difficulties in the history of liturgy. During the last few years, especially, all manner of solutions and combinations have been proposed. We will first note some points that are certain, that may serve as landmarks in an investigation.
Justin Martyr, Clement of Rome, Hippolytus (d. 235), and Novatian (c. 250) all agree in the Liturgies they describe, though the evidence of the last two is scanty (Probst, "Liturgie der drei ersten christl. Jahrhdte"; Drews, "Untersuchungen über die sogen. clement. Liturgie"). Justin gives us the fullest Liturgical description of any Father of the first three centuries (Apol. I, lxv, lxvi).
He describes how the Holy Eucharist was celebrated at Rome in the middle of the second century; his account is the necessary point of departure, one end of a chain whose intermediate links are hidden. We have hardly any knowledge at all of what developments the Roman Rite went through during the third and fourth centuries. This is the mysterious time where conjecture may, and does, run riot.
By the fifth century we come back to comparatively firm ground, after a radical change. At this time we have the fragment in Pseudo-Ambrose, "De sacramentis" (about 400. Cf. P.L., XVI, 443), and the letter of Pope Innocent I (401-17) to Decentius of Eugubium (P.L., XX, 553). In these documents we see that the Roman Liturgy is said in Latin and has already become in essence the rite we still use. A few indications of the end of the fourth century agree with this. A little later we come to the earliest Sacramentaries (Leonine, fifth or sixth century; Gelasian, sixth or seventh century) and from then the history of the Roman Mass is fairly clear.
The fifth and sixth centuries therefore show us the other end of the chain. For the interval between the second and fifth centuries, during which the great change took place, although we know so little about Rome itself, we have valuable data from Africa.
There is every reason to believe that in liturgical matters the Church of Africa followed Rome closely. We can supply much of what we wish to know about Rome from the African Fathers of the third century, Tertullian (d. c. 220), St. Cyprian (d. 258), the Acts of St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas (203), St. Augustine (d. 430) (see Cabrol, "Dictionnaire d' archéologie", I, 591-657).
The question of the change of language from Greek to Latin is less important than if might seem. It came about naturally when Greek ceased to be the usual language of the Roman Christians. Pope Victor I (190-202), an African, seems to have been the first to use Latin at Rome, Novatian writes Latin.
By the second half of the third century the usual liturgical language at Rome seems to have been Latin (Kattenbusch, "Symbolik", II, 331), though fragments of Greek remained for many centuries. Other writers think that Latin was not finally adopted till the end of the fourth century (Probst, "Die abendländ. Messe", 5; Rietschel, "Lehrbuch der Liturgik", I, 337).
No doubt, for a time both languages were used. The question is discussed at length in C. P. Caspari, "Quellen zur Gesch. des Taufsymbols u. der Glaubensregel" (Christiania, 1879), III, 267 sq. The Creed was sometimes said in Greek, some psalms were sung in that language, the lessons on Holy Saturday were read in Greek and Latin as late as the eighth century (Ordo Rom., I, P.L., LXXVIII, 966-68, 955).
There are still such fragments of Greek ("Kyrie eleison", "Agios O Theos") in the Roman Mass. But a change of language does not involve a change of rite. Novatian's Latin allusions to the Eucharistic prayer agree very well with those of Clement of Rome in Greek, and with the Greek forms in Apost. Const., VIII (Drews, op. cit., 107-22). The Africans, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, etc., who write Latin, describe a rite very closely related to that of Justin and the Apostolic Constitutions (Probst, op. cit., 183-206; 215-30).
The Gallican Rite, as in Germanus of Paris (Duchesne, "Origines du Culte", 180-217), shows how Eastern — how "Greek" — a Latin Liturgy can be. We must then conceive the change of language in the third century as a detail that did not much affect the development of the rite. No doubt the use of Latin was a factor in the Roman tendency to shorten the prayers, leave out whatever seemed redundant in formulas, and abridge the whole service. Latin is naturally terse, compared with the rhetorical abundance of Greek. This difference is one of the most obvious distinctions between the Roman and the Eastern Rites.
If we may suppose that during the first three centuries there was a common Liturgy throughout Christendom, variable, no doubt, in details, but uniform in all its main points, which common Liturgy is represented by that of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, we have in that the origin of the Roman Mass as of all other liturgies. There are, indeed, special reasons for supposing that this type of liturgy was used at Rome.
The chief authorities for it (Clement, Justin, Hippolytus, Novatian) are all Roman. Moreover, even the present Roman Rite, in spite of later modifications, retains certain elements that resemble those of the Apost. Const. Liturgy remarkably. For instance, at Rome there neither is nor has been a public Offertory prayer. The "Oremus" said just before the Offertory is the fragment of quite another thing, the old prayers of the faithful, of which we still have a specimen in the series of collects on Good Friday.
The Offertory in the mass in the Catholic Church
The Offertory is made in silence while the choir sings part of a psalm. Meanwhile the celebrant says private Offertory prayers which in the old form of the Mass are the Secrets only. The older Secrets are true Offertory prayers. In the Byzantine Rite, on the other hand, the gifts are prepared beforehand, brought up with the singing of the Cherubikon, and offered at the altar by a public Synapte of deacon and people, and a prayer once sung aloud by the celebrant (now only the Ekphonesis is sung aloud). The Roman custom of a silent offertory with private prayer is that of the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions.
Here too the rubric says only: "The deacons bring the gifts to the bishop at the altar" (VIII, xii, 3) and "The Bishop, praying by himself [kath heauton, "silently"] with the priests . . ." (VIII, xii, 4). No doubt in this case, too, a psalm was sung meanwhile, which would account for the unique instance of silent prayer. The Apostolic Constitutions order that at this point the deacons should wave fans over the oblation (a practical precaution to keep away insects, VIII, xii, 3); this, too, was done at Rome down to the fourteenth century (Martène, "De antiquis eccl. ritibus", Antwerp, 1763, I, 145).
The Roman Mass, like the Apostolic Constitutions (VIII, xi, 12), has a washing of hands just before the Offertory. It once had a kiss of peace before the Preface. Pope Innocent I, in his letter to Decentius of Eugubium (416), remarks on this older custom of placing it ante confecta mysteria (before the Eucharistic prayer — P.L., XX, 553). That is its place in the Apost. Const. (VIII, xi, 9). After the Lord's Prayer, at Rome, during the fraction, the celebrant sings: "Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum." It seems that this was the place to which the kiss of peace was first moved (as in Innocent I's letter).
This greeting, unique in the Roman Rite, occurs again only in the Apostolic Constitutions (he eirene tou theou meta panton hymon). Here it comes twice: after the Intercession (VIII, xiii, 1) and at the kiss of peace (VIII, xi, 8). The two Roman prayers after the Communion, the Postcommunion and the Oratio super populum (ad populum in the Gelasian Sacramentary) correspond to the two prayers, first a thanksgiving, then a prayer over the people, in Apost. Const., VIII, xv, 1-5 and 7-9.
There is an interesting deduction that may be made from the present Roman Preface. A number of Prefaces introduce the reference to the angels (who sing the Sanctus) by the form et ideo. In many cases it is not clear to what this ideo refers. Like the igitur at the beginning of the Canon, it does not seem justified by what precedes. May we conjecture that something has been left out?
The beginning of the Eucharistic prayer in the Apost. Const., VIII, xii, 6-27 (the part before the Sanctus, our Preface, it is to be found m Brightman, "Liturgies, Eastern and Western", I, Oxford, 1896, 14-18), is much longer, and enumerates at length the benefits of creation and various events of the Old Law. The angels are mentioned twice, at the beginning as the first creatures and then again at the end abruptly, without connection with what has preceded in order to introduce the Sanctus. The shortness of the Roman Prefaces seems to make it certain that they have been curtailed.
All the other rites begin the Eucharistic prayer (after the formula: "Let us give thanks") with a long thanksgiving for the various benefits of God, which are enumerated. We know, too, how much of the development of the Roman Mass is due to a tendency to abridge the older prayers.
If then we suppose that the Roman Preface is such an abridgement of that in the Apost. Const., with the details of the Creation and Old Testament history left out, we can account for the ideo. The two references to the angels in the older prayer have met and coalesced. The ideo refers to the omitted list of benefits, of which the angels, too, have their share. The parallel between the orders of angels in both liturgies is exact:
ROMAN MISSAL: . . . . cum Angelis et Archangelis, cum Thronis et Dominationibus, cumque omni militia cælestis exercitus . . . . sine fine dicentes. APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS: . . . . stratiai aggelon, archallelon, . . . . thronon, kyrioteton, . . . . . . . . stration aionion, . . . . legonta akatapaustos.
Another parallel is in the old forms of the "Hanc igitur" prayer. Baumstark ("Liturgia romana", 102-07) has found two early Roman forms of this prayer in Sacramentaries at Vauclair and Rouen, already published by Martène ("Voyage littéraire", Paris, 1724, 40) and Delisle (in Ebner, " Iteritalicum", 417), in which it is much longer and has plainly the nature of an Intercession, such as we find in the Eastern rites at the end of the Anaphora.
The form is: "Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostræ sed et cunctæ familiæ tuæ, quæsumus Domine placatus accipias, quam tibi devoto offerimus corde pro pace et caritate et unitate sanctæ ecclesiæ, pro fide catholica . . . pro sacerdotibus et omni gradu ecclesiæ, pro regibus . . . " (Therefore, O Lord, we beseech Thee, be pleased to accept this offering of our service and of all Thy household, which we offer Thee with devout heart for the peace, charity, and unity of Holy Church, for the Catholic Faith . . . for the priests and every order of the Church, for kings . . .) and so on, enumerating a complete list of people for whom prayer is said.
Baumstark prints these clauses parallel with those of the Intercesison in various Eastern rites; most of them may be found in that of the Apost. Const. (VIII, xii, 40-50, and xiii, 3-9). This, then, supplies another missing element in the Mass. Eventually the clauses enumerating the petitions were suppressed, no doubt because they were thought to be a useless reduplication of the prayers "Te igitur", "Communicantes", and the two Mementos (Baumstark, op. cit., 107), and the introduction of this Intercession (Hanc igitur . . . placatus accipias) was joined to what seems to have once been part of a prayer for the dead (diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, etc.).
We still have a faint echo of the old Intercession in the clause about the newly-baptized interpolated into the "Hanc igitur" at Easter and Whitsuntide. The beginning of the prayer has a parallel in Apost. Const., VIII, xiii, 3 (the beginning of the deacon's Litany of Intercession). Drews thinks that the form quoted by Baumstark, with its clauses all beginning pro, was spoken by the deacon as a litany, like the clauses in Apost. Const. beginning hyper (Untersuchungen über die sog. clem. Lit., 139).
The prayer containing the words of Institution in the Roman Mass (Qui pridie . . in mei memoriam facietis) has just the constructions and epithets of the corresponding text in Apost. Const., VIII, xii, 36-37. All this and many more parallels between the Mass and the Apost. Const. Liturgy may be studied in Drews (op. cit.). It is true that we can find parallel passages with other liturgies too, notably with that of Jerusalem (St. James).
There are several forms that correspond to those of the Egyptian Rite, such as the Roman "de tuis donis ac datis" in the "Unde et memores" (St. Mark: ek ton son doron; Brightman, "Eastern Liturgies", p. 133, 1. 30); "offerimus præclaræ maiestati tuæ de tuis donis ac datis", is found exactly in the Coptic form ("before thine holy glory we have set thine own gift of thine own", ibid., p. 178, 1. 15).
But this does not mean merely that there are parallel passages between any two rites. The similarities of the Apost. Const. are far more obvious than those of any other. The Roman Mass, even apart from the testimony of Justin Martyr, Clement, Hippolytus, Novatian, still bears evidence of its development from a type of liturgy of which that of the Apostolic Constitutions is the only perfect surviving specimen. There is reason to believe, moreover, that it has since been influenced both from Jerusalem-Antioch and Alexandria, though many of the forms common to it and these two may be survivals of that original, universal fluid rite which have not been preserved in the Apost. Const.
It must always be remembered that no one maintains that the Apost. Const. Liturgy is word for word the primitive universal Liturgy. The thesis defended by Probst, Drews, Kattenbusch, Baumstark, and others is that there was a comparatively vague and fluid rite of which the Apost. Const. have preserved for us a specimen.
But between this original Roman Rite (which we can study only in the Apost. Const.) and the Mass as it emerges in the first sacramentaries (sixth to seventh century) there is a great change. Much of this change is accounted for by the Roman tendency to shorten. The Apost, Const. has five lessons; Rome has generally only two or three. At Rome the prayers of the faithful after the expulsion of the catechumens and the Intercession at the end of the Canon have gone. Both no doubt were considered superfluous since there is a series of petitions of the same nature in the Canon. But both have left traces.
We still say Oremus before the Offertory, where the prayers of the faithful once stood, and still have these prayers on Good Friday in the collects. And the "Hanc Igitur" is a fragment of the Intercession. The first great change that separates Rome from all the Eastern rites is the influence of the ecclesiastical year. The Eastern liturgies remain always the same except for the lessons, Prokeimenon (Gradual-verse), and one or two other slight modifications.
On the other hand the Roman Mass is profoundly affected throughout by the season or feast on which it is said. Probst's theory was that this change was made by Pope Damasus (366-84; "Liturgie des vierten Jahrh.", pp. 448-72). This idea is now abandoned (Funk in "Tübinger Quartalschrift", 1894, pp. 683 sq.). Indeed, we have the authority of Pope Vigilius (540-55) for the fact that in the sixth century the order of the Mass was still hardly affected by the calendar ("Ep. ad Eutherium" in P.L., LXIX, 18).
The influence of the ecclesiastical year must have been gradual. The lessons were of course always varied, and a growing tendency to refer to the feast or season in the prayers, Preface, and even in the Canon, brought about the present state of things, already in full force in the Leonine Sacramentary. That Damasus was one of the popes who modified the old rite seems, however, certain. St. Gregory I (590-604) says he introduced the use of the Hebrew Alleluia from Jerusalem ("Ep. ad Ioh. Syracus." in P.L., LXXVII, 956).
It was under Damasus that the Vulgate became the official Roman version of the Bible used in the Liturgy; a constant tradition ascribes to Damasus's friend St. Jerome (d. 420) the arrangement of the Roman Lectionary. Mgr Duchesne thinks that the Canon was arranged by this pope (Origines du Culte, 168-9). A curious error of a Roman theologian of Damasus's time, who identified Melchisedech with the Holy Ghost, incidentally shows us one prayer of our Mass as existing then, namely the "Supra quæ" with its allusion to "summus sacerdos tuus Melchisedech" ("Quæst. V. et N. Test." in P.L., XXXV, 2329).
C. The Mass from the Fifth to the Seventh Century
By about the fifth century we begin to see more clearly. Two documents of this time give us fairly large fraaments of the Roman Mass. Innocent I (401-17), in his letter to Decentius of Eugubium (about 416; P.L., XX, 553), alludes to many features of the Mass. We notice that these important changes have already been made: the kiss of peace has been moved from the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful to after the Consecration, the Commemoration of the Living and Dead is made in the Canon, and there are no longer prayers of the faithful before the Offertory.
Rietschel (Lehrbuch der Liturgik, I, 340-1) thinks that the Invocation of the Holy Ghost has already disappeared from the Mass. Innocent does not mention it, but we have evidence of it at a later date under Gelasius I (492-6). Rietschel (loc. cit.) also thinks that there was a dogmatic reason for these changes, to emphasize the sacrificial idea. We notice especially that in Innocent's time the prayer of lntercession follows the Consecration. The author of the treatise "De Sacramentis" (wrongly attributed to St. Ambrose, in P.L., XVI, 418 sq.) says that he will explain the Roman Use, and proceeds to quote a great part of the Canon.
From this document we can reconstruct the following scheme: The Mass of the Catechumens is still distinct from that of the faithful, at least in theory. The people sing "Introibo ad altare Dei" as the celebrant and his ministers approach the alter (the Introit). Then follow lessons from Scripture, chants (Graduals), and a sermon (the Catechumens Mass). The people still make the Offertory of bread and wine.
The Preface and Sanctus follow (laus Deo defertur), then the prayer of Intercession (oratione petitur pro populo, pro regibus, pro ceteris) and the Consecration by the words of Institution (ut conficitur ven. sacramentum . . . utitur sermonibus Christi). From this point (Fac nobis hanc oblationem ascriptam, ratam, rationabilem . . .) the text of the Canon is quoted. Then come the Anamnesis (Ergo memores . . .), joined to it the prayer of oblation (offerimus tibi hanc immaculatam hostiam . . .), i.e. practically our "Supra quæ" prayer, and the Communion with the form: "Corpus Christi, R. Amen", during which Ps. xxii is sung. At the end the Lord's Prayer is said.
In the "De Sacramentis" then, the Intercession comes before the Consecration, whereas in Innocent's letter it came after. This transposition should be noted as one of the most important features in the development of the Mass. The "Liber Pontificalis" (ed. Duchesne, Paris, 1886-92) contains a number of statements about changes in and additions to the Mass made by various popes, as for instance that Leo I (440-61) added the words "sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam" to the prayer "Supra quæ", that Sergius I (687-701) introduced the Agnus Dei, and so on.
These must be received with caution; the whole book still needs critical examination. In the case of the Agnus Dei the statement is made doubtful by the fact that it is found in the Gregorian Sacramentary (whose date, however, is again doubtful). A constant tradition ascribes some great influence on the Mass to Gelasius I(492-6). Gennadius (De vir. illustr. xciv) says he composed a sacramentary; the Liber Pontificalis speaks of his liturgical work, and there must be some basis for the way in which his name is attached to the famous Gelasian Sacramentay. What exactly Gelasius did is less easy to determine.
We come now to the end of a period at the reign of St. Gregory I (590-604). Gregory knew the Mass practically as we still have it. There have been additions and changes since his time, but none to compare with the complete recasting of the Canon that took place before him. At least as far as the Canon is concerned, Gregory may be considered as having put the last touches to it.
His biographer, John the Deacon, says that he "collected the Sacramentary of Gelasius in one book, leaving out much, changing little, adding something for the exposition of the Gospels" (Vita S. Greg., II, xvii). He moved the Our Father from the end of the Mass to before the Communion, as he says in his letter to John of Syracuse: "We say the Lord's Prayer immediately after the Canon [max post precem] . . . It seems to me very unsuitable that we should say the Canon [prex] which an unknown scholar composed [quam scholasticus composuerat] over the oblation and that we should not say the prayer handed down by our Redeemer himself over His body and blood" (P.L., LXXVII, 956).
He is also credited with the addition: "diesque nostros etc." to the "Hanc igitur" (ibid.). Benedict XIV says that "no pope has added to, or changed the Canon since St. Gregory" (De SS. Missæ sacrificio, p. 162). There has been an important change since, the partial amalgamation of the old Roman Rite with Gallican features; but this hardly affects the Canon. We may say safely that a modern Latin Catholic who could be carried back to Rome in the early seventh century would — while missing some features to which he is accustomed — find himself on the whole quite at home with the service he saw there.
This brings us back to the most difficult question: Why and when was the Roman Liturgy changed from what we see in Justin Martyr to that of Gregory I? The change is radical, especially as regards the most important element of the Mass, the Canon.
The modifications in the earlier part, the smaller number of lessons, the omission of the prayers for and expulsion of the catechumens, of the prayers of the faithful before the Offertory and so on, may be accounted for easily as a result of the characteristic Roman tendency to shorten the service and leave out what had become superfluous. The influence of the calendar has already been noticed. But there remains the great question of the arrangement of the Canon. That the order of the prayers that make up the Canon is a cardinal difficulty is admitted by every one.
The old attempts to justify their present order by symbolic or mystic reasons have now been given up. The Roman Canon as it stands is recognized as a problem of great difficulty. It differs fundamentally from the Anaphora of any Eastern rite and from the Gallican Canon. Whereas in the Antiochene family of liturgies (including that of Gaul) the great Intercession follows the Consecration, which comes at once after the Sanctus, and in the Alexandrine class the Intercession is said during what we should call the Preface before the Sanctus, in the Roman Rite the Intercession is scattered throughout the Canon, partly before and partly after the Consecration.
We may add to this the other difficulty, the omission at Rome of any kind of clear Invocation of the Holy Ghost (Epiklesis). Paul Drews has tried to solve this question. His theory is that the Roman Mass, starting from the primitive vaguer rite (practically that of the Apostolic Constitutions), at first followed the development of Jerusalem-Antioch, and was for a time very similar to the Liturgy of St. James. Then it was recast to bring if nearer to Alexandria.
This change was made probably by Gelasius I under the influence of his guest, John Talaia of Alexandria. Here we need only add that if has received in the main the support of F.X. Funk (who at first opposed it; see "Histor. Jahrbuch der Görresgesellschaft", 1903, pp. 62, 283; but see also his "Kirchengesch. Abhandlungen", III, Paderborn, 1907, pp. 85-134, in which he will not admit that he has altogether changed his mind), A. Baumstark ("Liturgia romana e Liturgla dell' Esarcato", Rome, 1904), and G. Rauschen ("Eucharistie und Bussakrament", Freiburg, 1908, p. 86). But other theories have been suggested. Baumstark does not follow Drews in the details.
He conceives (op. cit.) the original Canon as consisting of a Preface in which God is thanked for the benefits of creation; the Sanctus interrupts the prayers, which then continue (Vere Sanctus) with a prayer (now disappeared) thanking God for Redemption and so coming to the Institution (Pridie autem quam pateretur . . .). Then follow the Anamnesis (Unde et memores), the "Supra quæ", the "Te igitur", joined to an Epiklesis after the words "hæc sancta sacrificia illibata". Then the Intercession (In primis quæ tibi offerimus . . .), "Memento vivorum", "Communicantes", "Memento defunctorum" (Nos quoque peccatores . . . intra sanctorum tuorum consortium non æstimator meriti sed veniæ quæsumus largitor admitte, per Christum Dominum nostrum).
This order then (according to Baumstark) was dislocated by the insertion of new elements, the "Hanc Igitur", "Quam oblationem", "Supra quæ" and "Supplices", the list of saints in the "Nobis quoque", all of which prayers were in some sort reduplications of what was already contained in the Canon.
They represent a mixed influence of Antioch and Alexandrla, which last reached Rome through Aquilea and Ravenna, where there was once a rite of the Alexandrine type. St. Leo I began to make these changes; Gregory I finished the process and finally recast the Canon in the form if still has. It will be seen that Baumstark's theory agrees with that of Drews in the main issue — that at Rome originally the whole Intercession followed the Canon.
Dom Cagin (Paléographie musicale, V, 80 sq.) and Dom Cabrol (Origines liturgiques, 354 sq.) propose an entirely different theory. So far it has been admitted on all sides that the Roman and Gallican rites belong to different classes; the Gallican Rite approaches that of Antioch very closely, the origin of the Roman one being the great problem. Cagin's idea is that all that must be reversed, the Gallican Rite has no connection at all with Antioch or any Eastern Liturgy; it is in its origin the same rite as the Roman. Rome changed this earlier form about the sixth or seventh century.
Before that the order at Rome was: Secrets, Preface, Sanctus, "Te igitur"; then "Hanc igitur", "Quam oblationem", "Qui pridie" (these three prayers correspond to the Gallican Post-Sanctus). Then followed a group like the Gallican Post Pridie, namely "Unde et memores", "Offerimus praeclaræ", "Supra guæ", "Supplices", "Per eundem Christum etc.", "Per quem hæc omnia", and the Fraction. Then came the Lord's Prayer with its embolism, of which the "Nobis quoque" was a part. The two Mementos were originally before the Preface.
Dom Cagin has certainly pointed out a number of points in which Rome and Gaul (that is all the Western rites) stand together as opposed to the East. Such points are the changes caused by the calendar, the introduction of the Institution by the words "Qui pridie", whereas all Eastern Liturgies have the form "In the night in which he was betrayed". Moreover the place of the kiss of peace (in Gaul before the Preface) cannot be quoted as a difference between Rome and Gaul, since, as we have seen it stood originally in that place at Rome too. The Gallican diptychs come before the Preface; but no one knows for certain where they were said originally at Rome. Cagin puts them in the same place in the earlier Roman Mass.
His theory may be studied further in Dom Cabrol's "Origines liturgiques", where if is very clearly set out (pp. 353-64). Mgr Duchesne has attacked it vigorously and not without effect in the "Revue d'histoire et de litérature ecclésiastiques" (1900), pp. 31 sq. Mr. Edmund Bishop criticizes the German theories (Drews, Baumstark etc.), and implies in general terms that the whole question of the grouping of liturgies will have to be reconsidered on a new basis, that of the form of the words of Institution (Appendix to Dom R. Connolly's "Liturgical Homilies of Narsai" in "Cambridge Texts and Studies", VIII, I, 1909). If is to be regretted that he has not told us plainly what position he means to defend, and that he is here again content with merely negative criticism.
The other great question, that of the disappearance of the Roman Epiklesis, cannot be examined here. We will only add to what has been said in those articles that the view is growing that there was an Invocation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, an Epiklesis of the Logos, before there was one of the Holy Ghost. The Anaphora of Serapion (fourth century in Egypt) contains such an Epiklesis of the Logos only (in Funk, "Didascalia", II, Paderborn, 1905, pp. 174-6).
Mr. Bishop (in the above-named Appendix) thinks that the Invocation of the Holy Ghost did not arise till later (Cyril of Jerusalem, about 350, being the first witness for it), that Rome never had it, that her only Epiklesis was the "Quam oblationem" before the words of Institution. Against this we must set what seems to be the convincing evidence of Gelasius I's letter (s. v. Supplices te rogamus).
We have then as the conclusion of this paragraph that at Rome the Eucharistic prayer was fundamentally changed and recast at some uncertain period between the fourth and the sixth and seventh centuries. During the same time the prayers of the faithful before the Offertory disappeared, the kiss of peace was transferred to after the Consecration, and the Epiklesis was omitted or mutilated into our "Supplices" prayer.
Of the various theories suggested to account for this it seems reasonable to say with Rauschen: "Although the question is by no means decided, nevertheless there is so much in favour of Drews's theory that for the present it must be considered the right one. We must then admit that between the years 400 and 500 a great transformation was made in the Roman Canon" (Euch. u. Busssakr., 86).
D. The Mass from the Seventh Century to Modern Times
After Gregory the Great (590-604) it is comparatively easy to follow the history of the Mass in the Roman Rite. We have now as documents first the three well-known sacramentaries. The oldest, called Leonine, exists in a seventh-century manuscript. Its composition is ascribed variously to the fifth, sixth, or seventh century (see LITURGICAL BOOKS).
It is a fragment, wanting the Canon, but, as far as it goes, represents the Mass we know (without the later Gallican additions). Many of its collects, secrets, post-communions, and prefaces are still in use. The Gelasian book was written in the sixth, seventh, or eighth century (ibid.); it is partly Gallicanized and was composed in the Frankish Kingdom. Here we have our Canon word for word. The third sacramentary, called Gregorian, is apparently the book sent by Pope Adrian I to Charlemagne probably between 781 and 791 (ibid.).
It contains additional Masses since Gregory's time and a set of supplements gradually incorporated into the original book, giving Frankish (i. e. older Roman and Gallican) additions. Dom Suitbert Bäumer ("Ueber das sogen. Sacram. Gelasianum" in the "Histor. Jahrbuch", 1893, pp. 241-301) and Mr. Edmund Bishop ("The Earliest Roman Massbook" in "Dublin Review", 1894, pp. 245-78) explain the development of the Roman Rite from the ninth to the eleventh century in this way: The (pure) Roman Sacramentary sent by Adrian to Charlemagne was ordered by the king to be used alone throughout the Frankish Kingdom.
But the people were attached to their old use, which was partly Roman (Gelasian) and partly Gallican. So when the Gregorian book was copied they (notably Alcuin d. 804) added to it these Frankish supplements. Gradually the supplements became incorporated into the original book. So composed it came back to Rome (through the influence of the Carlovingian emperors) and became the "use of the Roman Church".
The "Missale Romanum Lateranense" of the eleventh century (ed. Azevedo, Rome, 1752) shows this fused rite complete as the only one in use at Rome. The Roman Mass has thus gone through this last change since Gregory the Great, a partial fusion with Gallican elements. According to Bäumer and Bishop the Gallican influence is noticeable chiefly in the variations for the course of the year. Their view is that Gregory had given the Mass more uniformity (since the time of the Leonine book), had brought it rather to the model of the unchanging Eastern liturgies.
Its present variety for different days and seasons came back again with the mixed books later. Gallican influence is also seen in many dramatic and symbolic ceremonies foreign to the stern pure Roman Rite (see Bishop, "The Genius of the Roman Rite"). Such ceremonies are the blessing of candles, ashes, palms, much of the Holy Week ritual, etc.
The Roman Ordines, of which twelve were published by Mabillon in his "Museum Italicum" (others since by De Rossi and Duchesne), are valuable sources that supplement the sacramentaries. They are descriptions of ceremonial without the prayers (like the "Cærimoniale Episcoporum"), and extend from the eighth to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries.
The first (eighth century) and second (based on the first, with Frankish additions) are the most important. From these and the sacramentaries we can reconstruct the Mass at Rome in the eighth or ninth century. There were as yet no preparatory prayers said before the altar. The pope, attended by a great retinue of deacons, subdeacons, acolytes, and singers, entered while the Introit psalm was sung.
After a prostration the Kyrie eleison was sung, as now with nine invocations; any other litany had disappeared. The Gloria followed on feasts. The pope sang the prayer of the day, two or three lessons followed, Interspersed with psalms. The prayers of the faithful had gone, leaving only the one word Oremus as a fragment.
The people brought up the bread and wine while the Offertory psalm was sung; the gifts were arranged on the altar by the deacons. The Secret was said (at that time the only Offertory prayer) after the pope had washed his hands. The Preface, Sanctus, and all the Canon followed as now. A reference to the fruits of the earth led to the words "per quem hæc omnia" etc.
Then came the Lord's Prayer, the Fraction with a complicated ceremony, the kiss of peace, the Agnus Dei (since Pope Sergius, 687-701), the Communion under both kinds, during which the Communion psalm was sung, the Post-Communion prayer, the dismissal, and the procession back to the sacristy (for a more detailed account see C. Atchley, "Ordo Romanus Primus", London, 1905; Duchesne, "Origines du Culte chrétien", vi).
It has been explained how this (mixed) Roman Rite gradually drove out the Gallican Use. By about the tenth or eleventh century the Roman Mass was practically the only one in use in the West. Then a few additions (none of them very important) were made to the Mass at different times. The Nicene Creed is an importation from Constantinople.
It is said that in 1014 Emperor Henry II (1002-24) persuaded Pope Benedict VIII (1012-24) to add it after the Gospel (Berno of Reichenau, "De quibusdam rebus ad Missæ offic,pertin.", ii), It had already been adopted in Spain, Gaul, and Germany. All the present ritual and the prayers said by the celebrant at the Offertory were introduced from France about the thirteenth century ("Ordo Rom. XIV", liii, is the first witness; P. L., LXXVIII, 1163-4); before that the secrets were the only Offertory prayers ("Micrologus", xi, in P.L., CLI, 984).
There was considerable variety as to these prayers throughout the Middle Ages until the revised Missal of Pius V (1570). The incensing of persons and things is again due to Gallican influence; It was not adopted at Rome till the eleventh or twelfth century (Micrologus, ix). Before that time incense was burned only during processions (the entrance and Gospel procession; see C. Atchley, "Ordo Rom. Primus", 17-18).
The three prayers said by the celebrant before his communion are private devotions introduced gradually into the official text. Durandus (thirteenth century, "Rationale," IV, liii) mentions the first (for peace); the Sarum Rite had instead another prayer addressed to God the Father ("Deus Pater fons et origo totius bonitatis," ed. Burntisland, 625). Micrologus mentions only the second (D. I. Chr. qui ex voluntate Patris), but says that many other private prayers were said at this place (xviii). Here too there was great diversity through the Middle Ages till Pius V's Missal.
The latest additions to the Mass are its present beginning and end. The psalm "Iudica me", the Confession, and the other prayers said at the foot of the altar, are all part of the celebrant's preparation, once said (with many other psalms and prayers) in the sacristy, as the "Præparatio ad Missam" in the Missal now is. There was great diversity as to this preparation till Pius V established our modern rule of saying so much only before the altar. In the same way all that follows the "Ite missa est" is an afterthought, part of the thanksgiving, not formally admitted till Pius V.
We have thus accounted for all the elements of the Mass. The next stage of its development is the growth of numerous local varieties of the Roman Mass in the Middle Ages. These medieval rites (Paris, Rouen, Trier, Sarum, and so on all over Western Europe) are simply exuberant local modifications of the old Roman rite. The same applies to the particular uses of various religious orders (Carthusians, Dominicans, Carmelites etc.).
None of these deserves to be called even a derived rite; their changes are only ornate additions and amplifications; though certain special points, such as the Dominican preparation of the offering before the Mass begins, represent more Gallican influence. The Milanese and Mozarabic liturgies stand on quite a different footing; they are the descendants of a really different rite — the original Gallican — though they too have been considerably Romanized.
Meanwhile the Mass was developing in other ways also. During the first centuries it had been a common custom for a number of priests to concelebrate; standing around their bishop, they joined in his prayers and consecrated the oblation with him.
This is still common in the Eastern rites. In the West it had become rare by the thirteenth century. St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) discusses the question, "Whether several priests can consecrate one and the same host" (Summa Theol., III, Q. lxxxii, a. 2). He answers of course that they can, but quotes as an example only the case of ordination. In this case only has the practice been preserved. At the ordination of priests and bishops all the ordained concelebrate with the ordainer.
In other cases concelebration was in the early Middle Ages replaced by separate private celebrations. No doubt the custom of offering each Mass for a special intention helped to bring about this change. The separate celebrations then involved the building of many altars in one church and the reduction of the ritual to the simplest possible form. The deacon and subdeacon were in this case dispensed with; the celebrant took their part as well as his own. One server took the part of the choir and of all the other ministers, everything was said instead of being sung, the incense and kiss of peace were omitted.
So we have the well-known rite of low Mass (missa privata). This then reacted on high Mass (missa solemnis), so that at high Mass too the celebrant himself recites everything, even though it be also sung by the deacon, subdeacon, or choir.
The custom of the intention of the Mass further led to Mass being said every day by each priest. But this has by no means been uniformly carried out. On the one hand, we hear of an abuse of the same priest saying Mass several times in the day, which medieval councils constantly forbid. Again, many most pious priests did not celebrate daily. Bossuet (d. 1704), for instance, said Mass only on Sundays, Feasts, every day in Lent, and at other times when a special ferial Mass is provided in the Missal.
There is still no obligation for a priest to celebrate daily, though the custom is now very common. The Council of Trent desired that priests should celebrate at least on Sundays and solemn feasts (Sess. XXIII, cap. xiv). Celebration with no assistants at all (missa solitaria) has continually been forbidden, as by the Synod of Mainz in 813. Another abuse was the missa bifaciata or trifaciata, in which the celebrant said the first part, from the Introit to the Preface, several times over and then joined to all one Canon, in order to satisfy several intentions.
This too was forbidden by medieval councils (Durandus, "Rationale", IV, i, 22). The missa sicca (dry Mass) was a common form of devotion used for funerals or marriages in the afternoon, when a real Mass could not be said. It consisted of all the Mass except the Offertory, Consecration and Communion (Durandus, ibid., 23). The missa nautica and missa venatoria, said at sea in rough weather and for hunters in a hurry, were kinds of dry Masses.
In some monasteries each priest was obliged to say a dry Mass after the real (conventual) Mass. Cardinal Bona (Rerum liturg. libr. duo, I, xv) argues against the practice of saying dry Masses. Since the reform of Pius V it has gradually disappeared. The Mass of the Presanctified (missa præsanctificatorum, leitourgia ton proegiasmenon) is a very old custom described by the Quinisext Council (Second Trullan Synod, 692).
It is a Service (not really a Mass at all) of Communion from an oblation consecrated at a previous Mass and reserved. It is used in the Byzantine Church on the week-days of Lent (except Saturdays); in the Roman Rite only on Good Friday.
Finally came uniformity in the old Roman Rite and the abolition of nearly all the medieval variants. The Council of Trent considered the question and formed a commission to prepare a uniform Missal. Eventually the Missal was published by Pius V by the Bull "Quo primum" (still printed in it) of 14 July 1570.
That is really the last stage of the history of the Roman Mass. It is Pius V's Missal that is used throughout the Latin Church, except in a few cases where he allowed a modified use that had a prescription of at least two centuries. This exception saved the variants used by some religious orders and a few local rites as well as the Milanese and Mozarabic liturgies. Clement VIII (1604), Urban VIII (1634), and Leo XIII (1884) revised the book slightly in the rubrics and the texts of Scripture. Pius X has revised the chant (1908.) But these revisions leave it still the Missal of Pius V.
There has been since the early Middle Ages unceasing change in the sense of additions of masses for new feasts, the Missal now has a number of supplements that still grow, but liturgically these additions represent no real change. The new Masses are all built up exactly on the lines of the older ones.
We turn now to the present Roman Mass, without comparison the most important and widespread, as it is in many ways the most archaic service of the Holy Eucharist in Christendom.
E. The Present Roman Mass
It is not the object of this paragraph to give instruction as to how the Roman Mass is celebrated. The very complicated rules of all kinds, the minute rubrics that must be obeyed by the celebrant and his ministers, all the details of coincidence and commemoration — these things, studied at length by students before they are ordained, must be sought in a book of ceremonial (Le Vavasseur, quoted in the bibliography, is perhaps now the best).
It will be sufficient here to give a general outline of the arrangement. The ritual of the Mass is affected by (1) the person who celebrates, (2) the day or the special occasion on which it is said, (3) the kind of Mass (high or low) celebrated. But in all cases the general scheme is the same. The normal ideal may be taken as high Mass sung by a priest on an ordinary Sunday or feast that has no exceptional feature.
Normally, Mass must be celebrated in a consecrated or blessed Church (private oratories or even rooms are allowed for special reasons: see Le Vavasseur, I, 200-4) and at a consecrated altar (or at least on a consecrated altar-stone), and may be celebrated on any day in the year except Good Friday (restrictions are made against private celebrations on Holy Saturday and in the case of private oratories for certain great feasts) at any time between dawn and midday.
A priest may say only one Mass each day, except that on Christmas Day he may say three, and the first may (or rather, should) then be said immediately after midnight. In some countries (Spain and Portugal) a priest may also celebrate three times on All Souls' Day (2 November). Bishops may give leave to a priest to celebrate twice on Sundays and feasts of obligation, if otherwise the people could not fulfil their duty of hearing Mass.
In cathedral and collegiate churches, as well as in those of religious orders who are bound to say the Canonical Hours every day publicly, there is a daily Mass corresponding to the Office and forming with it the complete cycle of the public worship of God. This official public Mass is called the conventual Mass; if possible it should be a high Mass, but, even if it be not, it always has some of the features of high Mass.
The time for this conventual Mass on feasts and Sundays is after Terce has been said in choir. On Simples and feriæ the time is after Sext; on feriæ of Advent, Lent, on Vigils and Ember days after None. Votive Masses and the Requiem on All Souls' Day are said also after None; but ordinary requiems are said after Prime. The celebrant of Mass must be in the state of grace, fasting from midnight, free of irregularity and censure, and must observe all the rubrics and laws concerning the matter (azyme bread and pure wine), vestments, vessels, and ceremony.
The scheme of high Mass is this: the procession comes to the altar, consisting of thurifer, acolytes, master of ceremonies, subdeacon, deacon, and celebrant, all vested as the rubrics direct. First, the preparatory prayers are said at the foot of the altar; the altar is incensed, the celebrant reads at the south (Epistle) side the Introit and Kyrie. Meanwhile the choir sing the Introit and Kyrie. On days on which the "Te Deum" is said in the office, the celebrant intones the "Gloria in excelsis", which is continued by the choir.
Meanwhile he, the deacon, and subdeacon recite it, after which they may sit down till the choir has finished. After the greeting "Dominus vobiscum", and its answer "Et cum spiritu tuo", the celebrant chants the collect of the day, and after it as many more collects as are required either to commemorate other feasts or occasions, or are to be said by order of the bishop, or (on lesser days) are chosen by himself at his discretion from the collection in the Missal, according to the rubrics. The subdeacon chants the Epistle and the choir sings the Gradual.
Both are read by the celebrant at the altar, according to the present law that he is also to recite whatever is sung by any one else. He blesses the incense, says the "Munda Cor meum" prayer, and reads the Gospel at the north (Gospel) side. Meanwhile the deacon prepares to sing the Gospel. He goes in procession with the subdeacon, thurifer, and acolytes to a place on the north of the choir, and there chants it, the subdeacon holding the book, unless an ambo be used. If there is a sermon, if should be preached immediately after the Gospel.
This is the traditional place for the homily, after the lessons (Justin Martyr, "I Apolog.", lxvii, 4). On Sundays and certain feasts the Creed is sung next, just as was the Gloria. At this point, before or after the Creed (which is a later introduction, as we have seen), ends in theory the Mass of the Catechumens. The celebrant at the middle of the altar chants "Dominus vobiscum" and "Oremus" — the last remnant of the old prayers of the faithful.
Then follows the Offertory. The bread is offered to God with the prayer "Suscipe sancte Pater"; the deacon pours wine into the chalice and the subdeacon water. The chalice is offered by the celebrant in the same way as the bread (Offerimus tibi Domine), after which the gifts, the altar, the celebrant, ministers, and people are all incensed. Meanwhile the choir sings the Offertory. The celebrant washes his hands saying the "Lavabo".
After another offertory prayer (Suscipe sancta Trinitas), and an address to the people (Orate fratres) with its answer, which is not sung (it is a late addition), the celebrant says the secrets, corresponding to the collects. The last secret ends with an Ekphonesis (Per omnia sæcula sæculorum). This is only a warning of what is coming. When prayers began to be said silently, it still remained necessary to mark their ending, that people might know what is going on. So the last clauses were said or sung aloud. This so-called Ekphonesis is much developed in the Eastern rites.
In the Roman Mass there are three cases of it — always the words: "Per omnia sæcula sæculorum", to which the choir answers "Amen". After the Ekphonesis of the Secret comes the dialogue, "Sursum Cords", etc., used with slight variations in all rites, and so the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer which we call the Preface, no longer counted as part of the Canon. The choir sings and the celebrant says the Sanctus. Then follows the Canon, beginning "Te Igitur" and ending with an ekphonesis before the Lord's Prayer.
The Lord's Prayer follows, introduced by a little clause (Præceptis salutaribus moniti) and followed by an embolism, said silently and ending with the third ekphonesis. The Fraction follows with the versicle "Pax domini sit semper vobiscum", meant to introduce the kiss of peace. The choir sings the Agnus Dei, which is said by the celebrant together with the first Communion prayer, before he gives the kiss to the deacon.
He then says the two other Communion prayers, and receives Communion under both kinds. The Communion of the people (now rare at high Mass) follows. Meanwhile the choir sings the Communion. The chalice is purified and the post-Communions are sung, corresponding to the collects and secrets. Like the collects, they are introduced by the greeting "Dominus vobiscum" and its answer, and said at the south side. After another greeting by the celebrant the deacon sings the dismissal.
There still follow, however, three later additions, a blessing by the celebrant, a short prayer that God may be pleased with the sacrifice (Placeat tibi) and the Last Gospel, normally the beginning of St. John. The procession goes back to the sacristy.
This high Mass is the norm; it is only in the complete rite with deacon and subdeacon that the ceremonies can be understood. Thus, the rubrics of the Ordinary of the Mass always suppose that the Mass is high.
Low Mass, said by a priest alone with one server, is a shortened and simplified form of the same thing. Its ritual can be explained only by a reference to high Mass. For instance, the celebrant goes over to the north side of the altar to read the Gospel, because that is the side to which the deacon goes in procession at high Mass; he turns round always by the right, because at high Mass he should not turn his back to the deacon and so on.
A sung Mass (missa Cantata) is a modern compromise. It is really a low Mass, since the essence of high Mass is not the music but the deacon and subdeacon. Only in churches which have no ordained person except one priest, and in which high Mass is thus impossible, is it allowed to celebrate the Mass (on Sundays and feasts) with most of the adornment borrowed from high Mass, with singing and (generally) with incense.
The Sacred Congregation of Rites has on several occasions (9 June, 1884; 7 December, 1888) forbidden the use of incense at a Missa Cantata; nevertheless, exceptions have been made for several dioceses, and the custom of using it is generally tolerated (Le Vavasseur, op. cit., I, 514-5). In this case, too, the celebrant takes the part of deacon and subdeacon; there is no kiss of peace.
The ritual of the Mass is further affected by the dignity of the celebrant, whether bishop or only priest. There is something to be said for taking the pontifical Mass as the standard, and explaining that of the simple priest as a modified form, just as low Mass is a modified form of high Mass. On the other hand historically the case is not parallel throughout; some of the more elaborate pontifical ceremony is an after-thought, an adornment added later.
Here it need only be said that the main difference of the pontifical Mass (apart from some special vestments) is that the bishop remains at his throne (except for the preparatory prayers at the altar steps and the incensing of the altar) till the Offertory; so in this case the change from the Mass of the Catechumens to that of the Faithful is still clearly marked. He also does not put on the maniple till after the preparatory prayers, again an archaic touch that marks them as being outside the original service.
At low Mass the bishop's rank is marked only by a few unimportant details and by the later assumption of the maniple. Certain prelates, not bishops, use some pontifical ceremonies at Mass. The pope again has certain special ceremonies in his Mass, of which some represent remnants of older customs, Of these we note especially that he makes his Communion seated on the throne and drinks the consecrated wine through a little tube called fistula.
Durandus (Rationale, IV, i) and all the symbolic authors distinguish various parts of the Mass according to mystic principles. Thus it has four parts corresponding to the four kinds of prayer named in I Tim., ii, 1. It is an Obsecratio from the Introit to the Offertory, an Oratio from the Offertory to the Pater Noster, a Postulatio to the Communion, a Gratiarum actio from then to the end (Durandus, ibid).
The Canon especially has been divided according to all manner of systems, some very ingenious. But the distinctions that are really important to the student of liturgy are, first the historic division between the Mass of the Catechumens and Mass of the Faithful, already explained, and then the great practical distinction between the changeable and unchangeable parts. The Mass consists of an unchanged framework into which at certain fixed points the variable prayers, lessons, and chants are fitted.
The two elements are the Common and the Proper of the day (which, however, may again be taken from a common Mass provided for a number of similar occasions, as are the Commons of various classes of saints). The Common is the Ordinary of the Mass (Ordinarium Missae), now printed and inserted in the Missal between Holy Saturday and Easter Day. Every Mass is fitted into that scheme; to follow Mass one must first find that. In it occur rubrics directing that something is to be said or sung, which is not printed at this place.
The first rubric of this kind occurs after the incensing at the beginning: "Then the Celebrant signing himself with the sign of the Cross begins the Introit." But no Introit follows. He must know what Mass he is to say and find the Introit, and all the other proper parts, under their heading among the large collection of masses that fill the book.
These proper or variable parts are first the four chants of the choir, the Introit, Gradual (or tract, Alleluia, and perhaps after it a Sequence), Offertory, and Communion; then the lessons (Epistle, Gospel, sometimes Old Testament lessons too), then the prayers said by the celebrant (Collect, Secret, post-communion; often several of each to commemorate other feasts or days).
By fitting these into their places in the Ordinary the whole Mass is put together. There are, however, two other elements that occupy an intermediate place between the Ordinary and the Proper. These are the Preface and a part of the Canon. We have now only eleven prefaces, ten special ones and a common preface. They do not then change sufficiently to be printed over and over again among the proper Masses, so all are inserted in the Ordinary; from them naturally the right one must be chosen according to the rubrics.
In the same way, five great feasts have a special clause in the Communicantes prayer in the Canon, two (Easter and Whitsunday) have a special "Hanc Igitur" prayer, one day (Maundy Thursday) affects the "Qui pridie" form. These exceptions are printed after the corresponding prefaces; but Maundy Thursday, as it occurs only once, is to be found in the Proper of the day (see CANON OF THE MASS).
It is these parts of the Mass that vary, and, because of them, we speak of the Mass of such a day or of such a feast. To be able to find the Mass for any given day requires knowledge of a complicated set of rules. These rules are given in the rubrics at the beginning of the Missal. In outline the system is this. First a Mass is provided for every day in the year, according to the seasons of the Church. Ordinary week days (feriæ) have the Mass of the preceding Sunday with certain regular changes; but feriæ of Lent, rogation and ember days, and vigils have special Masses. All this makes up the first part of the Missal called Proprium de tempore.
The year is then overladen, as it were, by a great quantity of feasts of saints or of special events determined by the day of the month (these make up the Proprium Sanctorum). Nearly every day in the year is now a feast of some kind; often there are several on one day. There is then constantly coincidence (concurrentia) of several possible Masses on one day. There are cases in which two or more conventual Masses are said, one for each of the coinciding offices. Thus, on feriæ that have a special office, if a feast occurs as well, the Mass of the feast is said after Terce, that of the feria after None. If a feast falls on the Eve of Ascension Day there are three Conventual Masses — of the feast after Terce, of the Vigil after Sext, of Rogation day after None.
But, in churches that have no official conventual Mass and in the case of the priest who says Mass for his own devotion, one only of the coinciding Masses is said, the others being (usually) commemorated by saying their collects, secrets, and post-Communions after those of the Mass chosen. To know which Mass to choose one must know their various degrees of dignity. All days or feasts are arranged in this scale: feria, simple, semidouble double, greater double, double of the second class, double of the first class.
The greater feast then is the one kept: by transferring feasts to the next free day, it is arranged that two feasts of the same rank do not coincide. Certain important days are privileged, so that a higher feast cannot displace them. Thus nothing can displace the first Sundays of Advent and Lent, Passion and Palm Sundays. These are the so-called first-class Sundays. In the same way nothing can displace Ash Wednesday or any day of Holy Week.
Other days (for instance the so-called second-class Sundays, that is the others in Advent and Lent, and Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima) can only be replaced by doubles of the first class. Ordinary Sundays count as semidoubles, but have precedence over other semidoubles. The days of an octave are semidoubles; the octave day is a double. The octaves of Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost (the original three greatest feasts of all) are closed against any other feast.
The displaced feast is commemorated, except in the case of a great inferiority: the rules for this are given among the "Rubricæ generales" of the Missal (VII: de Commemorationibus). On semidoubles and days below that in rank other collects are always added to that of the day to make up an uneven number. Certain ones are prescribed regularly in the Missal, the celebrant may add others at his discretion.
The bishop of the diocese may also order collects for special reasons (the so-called Orationes imperat ). As a general rule the Mass must correspond to the Office of the day, including its commemorations. But the Missal contains a collection of Votive Masses, that may be said on days not above a semidouble in rank. The bishop or pope may order a Votive Mass for a public cause to be said on any day but the very highest.
All these rules are explained in detail by Le Vavasseur (op. cit., I, 216-31) as well as in the rubrics of the Missal (Rubr. gen., IV). There are two other Masses which, inasmuch as they do not correspond to the office, may be considered a kind of Votive Mass: the Nuptial Mass (missa pro sponso et sponsa), said at weddings, and the Requiem Mass, said for the faithful departed, which have a number of special characteristics (see NUPTIAL MASS and REQUIEM MASS). The calendar (Ordo) published yearly in each diocese or province gives the office and Mass for every day. (Concerning Mass stipends.)
That the Mass, around which such complicated rules have grown, is the central feature of the Catholic religion hardly needs to be said, During the Reformation and always the Mass has been the test. The word of the Reformers: "It is the Mass that matters", was true. The Cornish insurgents in 1549 rose against the new religion, and expressed their whole cause in their demand to have the Prayer-book Communion Service taken away and the old Mass restored.
The long persecution of Catholics in England took the practical form of laws chiefly against saying Mass; for centuries the occupant of the English throne was obliged to manifest his Protestantism, not by a general denial of the whole system of Catholic dogma but by a formal repudiation of the doctrine of Transubstantiation and of the Mass.
As union with Rome is the bond between Catholics, so is our common share in this, the most venerable rite in Christendom, the witness and safeguard of that bond. It is by his share in the Mass in Communion that the Catholic proclaims his union with the great Church. As excommunication means the loss of that right in those who are expelled so the Mass and Communion are the visible bond between people, priest, and bishop, who are all one body who share the one Bread.
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1914 ed. in the public domain), "Mass Liturgy" with minor edits.